Happy 50th Birthday PBO... Editor David Pugh welcomes you to the latest issue of Practical Boat Owner magazine.

Depending on how you measure it, 50 years is a long time.

The reason for the proviso is that, if you’ve been sailing for all that, it probably seems more like 50 minutes.

But if you look at how things have changed since the first issue of PBO was published in 1967, the world was a very different place. Most boats were still built from wood, navigation instruments were still made from brass, glass and string, and many sails were still cut from cotton.

But times they were a-changing: electronics were becoming smaller and more affordable, and plastics were revolutionising the way we look at materials.

I’m not suggesting that we change the magazine title to Plastic Boat Owner, but examined objectively there’s a case for it.

Without plastic, PBO might never have existed.

Plastic allowed boats to be mass-produced and hence brought the cost of purchase within reach of middle earners, while the resilient, easily-repairable nature of glassfibre made maintenance cheaper.

Plastic had its effect on boat equipment too. Ebbco launched its plastic sextant in the mid-1960s, making what had been a huge investment more affordable while still accurate enough for coastal sailing.

And as electronics became more common, what were the boxes made from? Plastic.

Our ropes and sails were also changing. Terylene, the first polyester fabric to be produced, was patented in 1941, but in its early years was kept secret and used exclusively for wartime projects.

But by the time PBO came into being, Terylene and other polyesters had started to take over for sails and running rigging: the new fibre was light, hardwearing, strong, didn’t stretch much and dried quickly. Not many of those attributes could be applied to cotton sails and hemp lines.

Today, all these materials are taken for granted, and we now marvel at Kevlar and carbon. But for cruising sailors, these represent evolution, not revolution, and are unlikely to change the face of everyday sailing like glassfibre and polyester did.

Meanwhile, some manufacturers are looking back and rediscovering the advantages of a material tremendously popular in the 1960s: plywood. RM Yachts in France are the most prominent, building light, fast, attractive plywood yachts with another popular ’60s feature – twin keels.

But they aren’t the only one, and away from the mass-production market plywood’s light weight, considerable strength and predictable performance makes it popular for one-offs and kits.

Which brings us neatly to our project boat: the kit-built, plywood Secret 20. In Ben Meakins’ article in this month’s issue you’ll find that we’ve fitted the deck beams, chainplate reinforcement, deck and side stringers; what he didn’t say is that we’ve already cut out the forward sections of the plywood sides and offered them up.

They fitted perfectly, which was a huge relief, but I couldn’t help but think what amazing stuff plywood really is. Eight feet of the boat instantly looked smooth, fair and almost ready to go afloat. Doing that with planking would take ages, while building in glassfibre would have required us to build the boat three times: plug, then mould, then boat.

I like to think that the Secret is an encapsulation of 50 years of PBO. She’s built in plywood to a classic design, but stuck together and sheathed in modern, high-performance epoxy. And we’ll have built every inch of her. If that’s not practical, I don’t know what is.

Happy Birthday, PBO.

Fair winds,
David Pugh

David Pugh, PBO editor

David Pugh, PBO editor

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Here’s a full list of the May 2017 issue’s contents

Make your boat sail better: Inexpensive tweaks to a budget boat

Which rope for which job?: Tested for comfort

50 years of DIY boating: PBO shares its half-century

PBO tested – Masking tape: Get the sharpest edges

Start the season: Pre-launch checks for a trouble-free season

PBO tested – Seaward 35: ‘Highly practical, rock-solid boats’

34-36ft cruisers part 3: Sadlers, Moodys, Dufours and Dehlers

Working with stainless tube: Constructing pulpit and pushpit rails

Fitting windows: Removing and replacing the leaking acrylic windows on an Impala 28

PBO Project Boat 2 – Deck beams and chainplates: Reinforcing PBO’s Secret 20

Cruising among the Outer Isles: A two-week sailing trip to the Shiant Isles

‘I restored a Halcyon 23 during my gap year’: A student uses his gap year to get a tired Halcyon back into tip-top condition

The Walton Backwaters: Serenity in abundance among the creeks and nooks of north-east Essex

Beaulieu Boatjumble preview: What to look for at the event – and your chance to win a VIP weekend in the New Forest

On the water with the WOA: A sail with Westerly Owners’ Association Commodore George Pickburn

Halfway to Bermuda and back: An abortive passage from Nova Scotia

Winter in Spinalonga lagoon: Crete anchorage with an irresistible allure

How to make a tiller lock: PLUS more reader projects and tips

Making clamps from copper: Repurposing used copper piping

Reducing chain rumble and snagging: Hints and tips from the PBO Sketchbook


Waiting for the tide: The editor’s welcome to this month’s PBO – sign up for PBO’s free monthly e-newsletter at: http://emails.timeincuk.co.uk/YBW_webcross

‘Mad about the Boat’ columnist Dave Selby: Save £££ with boat denial

Columnist Sam Llewellyn: Locked in mortal combat

Monthly musings from Andrew Simpson: Red sand to the rescue

PBO products and services: Books and plans from the PBO shop

New regular chandlery offers

News: Boaters flock to MCZ information events, VHF Channel changes… and more

Regional news: Admiralty chart update, major boost for Mallaig… and more

New regular chandlery offers

Readers’ letters: Your views

Ask the experts: carbon monoxide alarms, a leaky coolant, and more reader queries answered

New gear: PBO looks at the latest marine products